As a cat litter company, we have sat by and watched a conversation develop, considering whether pine or cedar bedding is problematic for rabbits and other small pets like hamsters or rats.
You know that lovely wood scent in a forest or even the lumber section of the hardware store? That aroma comes from an organic compound known as a phenol. According to “The Dangers of Softwood Shavings,” by George Flentke, PhD, because softer woods like pine or cedar naturally have more phenols, those compounds can enter the delicate respiratory systems of rabbits and bedding made from pine or cedar is thought to lead to elevated enzyme levels in the livers of rabbits. Harder woods like aspen or fir have lower phenol levels, making them better candidates for small animal bedding.
While researching for this article, I read another article on raising-rabbits.com that pointed me to Corinne Fayo’s article, “The Truth About Pine Shavings.” This article claims that the study referenced in the article above, showed liver enzyme levels in tests are within normal limits, and that the study failed to consider whether the liver damage could have been attributed to other environmental factors.
All of these conversations are scientific and come with decades of experience raising rabbits. It is difficult to know which side is correct. Over the years, we have had some customers ask about whether our litter can be used for small animals. We are always forthright with the fact that our cat litter is made from cypress wood, which is in the soft wood family. Whether or not a customer wants to use our litter for their small pet is at their discretion.
What we do know is our litter is often recommended by veterinarians for cats with asthma or other respiratory issues. Many litter options like clay or paper are very dusty. Because Next Gen Pet’s natural cat litters contain no chemicals, additives or fragrances, it makes our litter a great candidate for kitties who have trouble breathing.